STATES

Champa, only writer to be jailed during Emergency in Karnataka

Express News Service

Born in a traditional Jangama family in Hattimattur village of Haveri district, Chandrashekar Patil, known by the pen name Champa, never lost a chance to oppose what he did not like. His real name was Chandrashekarayya Patil Kulkarni, which he shortened in later years.

Champa was the only Kannada writer who was jailed during the Emergency in 1975. He was in jail for 26 days, and also penned a book, ‘26 Days’. Inspired by Ram Manohar Lohia and Jayaprakash Narayan, Patil was the face of North Karnataka Nava Nirmana Kranti where other writers like Lankesh, Poornachandra Tejasvi and Nanjund Swamy shared a great relation with Champa.

Champa inspired many young writers through the magazine Sankramana. From his college days, he was active in many social agitations. When poet V K Gokak showed an inclination to bring Sanskrit language in the state, Champa coined a phrase ‘Gokak Go Back’, which became popular throughout Karnataka. In fact, Champa had stated that during his college days in Dharwad’s Karnatak College, he was inspired by the poems of Gokak. 

Champa led the agitation against stopping Puttaparthi Sai Baba from making a speech in Karnatak University. The then VC Dr Adake had invited Sai Baba for a function. However, Sai Baba had to return without making a speech after the agitation by Champa and his friends. Champa also wrote a play ‘Burade Baba Kathana’, exposing the tricks of godmen. Next year, Champa invited Sri Lankan rationalist and thinker A T Kovoor to Dharwad, and it was a big success. 

Champa never hesitated to take on the power centres. Be it chief ministers and ministers, Champa critisised whenever he felt something wrong was happening. In fact, when he was president of Kannada Sahitya Parishat, the annual sammelana was organised at Shivamogga. One of the sessions had journalist Gauri Lankesh, which saw opposition from right-wing activists.

When opposition mounted, then CM B S Yediyurappa requested Champa to cancel the session. Champa did not go with Yediyurappa’s suggestion and continued with the session. He also gave an open statement against the chief minister, when Yediyurappa threatened to hold grants to the Parishat if the session was not cancelled. “The CM is like a postman to provide funds for the work of Kannada language. Yediyurappa is not giving money from his home,” he had said.

His statements attracted both appreciation as well as criticism. Several times, he was opposed by right-wing activists. After the assassination of Prof MM Kalburgi in Dharwad, the government had provided a gunman to Champa, who continued to work till the end. 

Writer and journalist

(As told to Amit S Upadhye)

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